The leading U.S. bill in tackling the climate crisis is so flawed and weak and full of concessions to major polluters that even centrist environmental groups like Greenpeace have noticed that it is worse than nothing. It fails to take advantage of the many opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in ways that strengthen our economy. The people most to blame for this are not our Congress critters and Senators. The kind of changes we need originate with grassroots pressure, not with politicians. We need an organized movement centered on grassroots demands for solutions. While networks like have accomplished amazing things, it is time they moved from generalities the politicians can nod politely at while serving toxic gruel, to a specific set of proposals, or even a people’s climate bill. I’ve been working with some grassroots groups who are trying to build a coalition to do just that. I have created a downloadable(doc) proposal(pdf) to that grassroots working group. It is my proposal, and not what the working group will ultimately settle on. And of course what the working group puts out won’t be final either. So look upon this as a proposal, seeking feedback. One feedback I will ignore is criticism of the realism of putting a proposal out, from any one supporting the Kerry/Lieberman bill. Because this “People’s Climate Bill” has exactly the same chance of passing this session as that one. The downloadable proposal is for an American PRIDE Act. PRIDE stands for Promote Renewable Infrastructure & Develop Efficiency. This is a two decade ~400 billion a year jobs bill that makes a profit, while creating two to five million new jobs per year. It just happens that this jobs bill eliminates most air pollution, including global warming pollution, as a side effect of making us more prosperous, freer and more secure. It reduces global warming by more than 60% in a decade, and oil use by over a third. It creates around a 90% renewable electric grid, and finances massive efficiency improvements in buildings, industry and transportation.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, it involves thinking big rather than thinking small. But there are good reasons for doing this. One is that thinking big allows whole system thinking. Instead of tripping over the strings that tie everything to everything else, it lets us try to pull them instead. And, also contrary to the conventional wisdom, it relies primarily on public investment and sector specific rules – even though it does include an emissions price.

An analogy from plasma engineering clarifies why what is slandered as command and control drives fundamental change better than tinkering with prices. Plasma, superheated gas, is sometimes called a fourth state of matter. And a stream of hot plasma will often react very strangely if you just apply more energy from the source, moving in directions you don’t expect. But a second much smaller stream of this weird type of hot gas can be aimed at the first. That tiny stream can change the shape and direction of your larger flow as they merge. The small stream can steer your large stream where you want it to go. Right now in the U.S., we spend about 1.2 trillion a year on energy. That is a huge powerful stream of economic activity. Instead of trying to change direction at the source on a transaction by transaction basis, it makes more sense to direct a smaller (but still large) concentrated stream of around 400 billion in public investment and subsidies to try and steer that entire larger 1.2 trillion dollar stream where we need it to go.

Also, politically, it makes sense to think big. Small proposals may appeal to elites and wannabe elites. But there is a lot more popular appeal in large jazzy proposals. And in this case, the large jazzy proposal is better policy.

America PRIDE Proposal as Word Document:

American PRIDE Proposal as PDF: